“I’ve always tried to take whatever was the most entertaining thing… and getting older and uglier has made the parts, you know, more varied,” a still famous female film star told the Radio Times last week to explain why she is doing a classy TV drama and will no longer be starring in the big-screen romcoms that made her famous.
Only kidding! It’s Hugh Grant, pulling off the rare and remarkable feat of being a man who is considered to be improving with age, if you can imagine such a thing.
I enjoy Hugh Grant a lot these days, not least because of his Paddington 2 performance and its show-stealing prison dance routine that make RuPaul’s Drag Race runway challenges look butch. But his wry admission that getting older has made his roles more interesting reminds me of a line from the 1950 classic All About Eve, which continues to come across as a relevant near-documentary, 68 years after its release. “Bill’s 32. He looks 32. He looked it five years ago. He’ll look it 20 years from now. I hate men,” declares Bette Davis’s fading Margo Channing about her in-demand director boyfriend.
I’m sure Margo Channing would have a lot to say about Grant gliding away from his 50s towards even greater acclaim. Compare Grant’s take on ageing to that of Glenda Jackson, 82, who was recently asked by the Hollywood Reporter about the notion that older women are now in high demand in Hollywood. “Come on,” she said. “No they’re not. I’m sorry, they’re not. I mean, why is it that contemporary dramatists don’t find women interesting? That has never changed since I first set foot on a stage.” I don’t think she is entirely correct – in television, particularly, stories are being told about older women and I suspect more are coming – but it does seem as if finding entertaining and varied parts isn’t quite such a breeze for all.
• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist